Arrow: “A Matter of Trust” Review
By Mitchell Sigal
After this Arrow episode – “A Matter of Trust” – we may finally be able to put the hand wringing about teamwork and Oliver’s intimacy issues to bed. At least for a time being. This installment ended with what appeared to be a final acknowledgment by Oliver of his failings as a leader. Last week I wrote a little about how rushed the introduction of a new Arrow Team, ancillary characters, and villains felt. Basically, my idea was that the speed at which the show moved through the training of new allies and acceptance of new relationships would eventually undo Oliver’s character arc here by minimizing it.
I am pleased to report that this is not the case. After three weeks of bashing viewers over the head with Oliver’s trust issues, it seems as though we can thankfully move forward. Here’s how we got to what appears to be a well-adjusted and battle-ready Oliver by the end of “A Matter of Trust.”
Tonight saw Oliver continue his battles on both fronts, as Mayor and as The Green Arrow. On the political side of things, he is having issues assembling an effective team, and having confidence in that team to make decisions. During all this, Thea makes an ill-fated gambit, floating some insider info to a reporter. The plot backfires, and the result is an embarrassed Mayoral Administration and a contrite Thea, who wishes to step back from her duties after the gaffe.
At the street level, after making amends with his new recruits after some overly-demanding training last week, Oliver is slowly removing their training wheels and showing them the field. Mad Dog, feeling as though his development is not moving quickly enough (one week after everyone had their feelings hurt because Oliver leaned on them) decides to step out on his own for a night and crack down on the criminals behind a new drug in Star City. He ends up in a physical confrontation with Derek Sampson, a high level dealer that during the tussle Mad Dog accidentally kills (not really). Sampson is exposed to enhancing chemicals during the struggle, that resuscitate him and remove his ability to feel pain. Mad Dog’s decision to prove his mettle early backfires on Oliver, who now must face an enhanced foe.
This wasn’t the last mortality magic trick Arrow would attempt tonight. Diggle, back in the country and arrested under Court Marshal, happens to be assigned a familiar cell mate: none other than Dead Shot, who died back in season three. The two converse, mostly about the death of Andy, Diggle’s brother. The scene is worth watching, buts essentially a way for John to shift guilt over his brother’s death onto himself, and away from Death Stroke. When Diggle’s wife visits him, he asks her to stop fighting for his release and let him serve his time for sins past – he gestures to her that Death Stroke (real name Floyd Lawton) never died after all, but it is revealed that Lawton very much did. Diggle had been talking to ghosts the entire time.
It’s long been a comic book trope that no dead characters stay dead, and it’s long been a TV trope that if you don’t see a character die you can’t be sure they did. But it’s ironic thatArrow has been wrestling with trust for the past three weeks… scratch that – that the show has been preaching about trust over the past three weeks, and defined tonight’s episodes with what amount to two cheap parlor tricks.
This dichotomy continues in the flashback’s, which picked up where last week left off. Oliver has passed the first trial of his initiation into Bratva, but is racked with guilt after the death of innocent men that defined his victory. These concerns are easily wiped away when Anatoly lets Oliver know that those men weren’t innocent at all, in fact they were criminals receiving justice in an unorthodox manner. The flashbacks ended tonight with trial two, wherein Bratva members line up to slice Oliver’s back with knives – he has to trust (it’s a lot, yes) that they won’t kill him. Just like Arrow is beating trust over the audience’s head, Anatoly is doing the same to Oliver himself; the rub is that neither seem especially trustworthy.
Once Sampson returns from the dead, he calls a bad guy conference to declare war on Tobias Church. His team will all receive the same treatment he did, making him impervious to pain. To be clear here, the physiological effects of trauma still apply to Sampson. He is just essentially numb, although the show leaves Sampson’s role down the line ambiguous – his enhancements may be as well.
Quick note here: Sampson is played by wrestler Cody Rhodes, who fans have known for the last few years as WWE’s Stardust. The episode makes a little nod to Rhodes’ in-ring character during “A Matter of Trust”, and Rhodes more than holds his own over the hour. Stephen Amell had previously made an appearance in-ring against Rhodes, which makes this crossover a fun moment for fans of both wrestling and the show. Cody was always on the smaller side of the WWE roster, but it’s easy to forget how that translates in real life – his physical presence on screen is commanding, and he looks the part of a physical match to Amell’s Green Arrow.
Continuing on, the episode ends with the re-emergence of Arrow’s favorite emotion – Trust. Sampson is returning to the plant to supply the enhancement of his gang. Oliver has to thwart him, and is forced to finally accept that the new Team Arrow is real, and happening. Oliver and company confront Sampson and company, and Oliver bests Sampson hand to hand by slicing his major tendons. Just because Sampson can’t feel it, doesn’t mean that they aren’t sliced. Sampson is left for the police to apprehend.
As usual, the action sequence here is effective and exciting. As noted a few graphs up, Rhodes is professionally trained to mock-fight. He can bring his movement directly to the line of actual damage without ever crossing it, and is clearly experienced with choreographed violence. He and Oliver have an impressive fist fight, but before that there are a few clever spots with Oliver’s arrows. The show always does this well, and tonight was no different.
At the Mayor’s office, Oliver has a press conference where he doubles down on his political allies and accepts the burden of both their failures and successes. It is my sincere hope that next week I can write the words “team” and “trust” far less.